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Industry urges Congress to reject user fees to fund food safety

By Caroline Scott-Thomas , 15-Mar-2011

A coalition of 16 food industry groups has written to key leaders in Congress urging them to reject increased user fees to fund the Food Safety Modernization Act.

The Food Safety Modernization Act was signed into law in January, and its implementation is expected to cost $1.4bn over five years. However, funding for the legislation has been called into doubt, as a GOP budget proposal for the remainder of fiscal 2011 includes significant spending cuts to food regulatory agencies, including the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), and the Agriculture Department’s Food Safety Inspection Service (FSIS).

The FDA has proposed about $100m of annual funding to come through increased user fees for plant inspections and registration of food production facilities, although it has not detailed the exact nature of such fees.

In its letter to Congress leaders, the industry coalition said: “Imposing new fees on food facilities would represent a food safety tax on consumers. As food companies and consumers continue to cope with a period of pro-longed economic turbulence, the creation of a new food tax would mean higher costs for businesses and higher food prices for consumers.

“We urge Congress to reaffirm its stated opposition to imposing new user fees on food producers and stand ready to work with Congress and the administration to find a better and less burdensome solution.”

President of the American Frozen Foods Institute, one of the letter’s signatories, said: “We are committed to helping modernize our nation’s food safety system by implementing [the Food Safety Modernization Act], but we believe a new tax on food is the wrong approach for funding that effort.”

The new law seeks to focus on the prevention of foodborne illness and widespread food recalls by giving the FDA the authority to better trace and manage food safety concerns throughout the supply chain.

The industry letter is online here .

Its signatories are:

American Bakers Association American Frozen Food Institute

American Meat Institute

Frozen Potato Products Institute

Independent Bakers Association

International Bottled Water Association

National Chicken Council

National Confectioners Association

National Fisheries Institute

National Frozen Pizza Institute

National Grain and Feed Association

National Meat Association

Pet Food Institute

Produce Marketers Association

Snack Food Association

United Egg Producers

United Fresh Produce Association

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